The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Jul. 29, 2021

Judges named for virtual Peony Pageant

VW independent/submitted information

The 2020 Queen Jubilee Pageant, originally scheduled for April 3, was postponed and then canceled due to COVID-19 “stay at home” orders by local and state governments. 

In uncertain times, and with a great deal of planning, the pageant committee then arranged a virtual pageant for this year. Contestants completed a preliminary essay and interview that took place in person on March 12with a panel of three judges: Wendy Buettner, Kathy Thompson, and Bob McCallow. Additionally, contestants submitted a video recording of their talent and took part in a Zoom question-and-answer meeting completed May 1. 

2020 Peony Pageant judges include (from the left) Jeremy Laukhuf, Trina Buettner, Jennifer Beck, and Mark Fuerst. photos provided

The talent and question and answer recordings were then sent to the four original pageant judges, who scored each contestant’s videos and submitted their scores confidentially to the pageant auditor by May 15. The four pageant judges this year are Jeremy Laukhuf, Jennifer Beck, Trina Buettner, and Mark Fuerst.

Laukhuf is the field director for LifeWise Academy and a teacher for LifeWise Van Wert. He holds master’s degree in ministry from Luther Rice College and Seminary, a bachelor’s degree in jazz studies from The Ohio State University, and is a certified project manager. Additionally, he is a retired United States Air Force veteran. 

He lives life by the motto “words mean things and truth matters most”, and strives to be an efficient, effective, and authentic leader and communicator in every aspect of his work. He and his wife, Cristi, have five children: Brooklynn, Cayden, Madalynn, Vivian, and Lillian. Laukhuf enjoys reading, writing, running, and Prog Rock.

Beck is a mom, wife, grandma, sports parent, avid runner, health-food junkie, and a collector of clutter (last one, not by choice, and is also a TV broadcaster. She originally planned to be an architect, and has a love for historical buildings, but chose broadcasting because, quite frankly, she wasn’t a fast enough runner to make it to the Olympics and thought a TV career might still get her there.  

While she hasn’t broadcast at the Olympics (yet), Beck has had many opportunities to cover tons of incredible situations, including sporting events and music concerts in Van Wert County. Northwest Ohio is a great place to live and she is grateful for being involved in television broadcasting in this area since 1995. 

Beck spent several years as a news anchor at WLIO, TV-35. Since 2011, she has served as director of marketing and a producer/anchor/reporter at WTLW TV-44. She lives in Lima with her husband and two teenage daughters.  

Buettner grew up in Van Wert County and then obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacy from the University of Toledo. She is thankful for the opportunity to participate in this pageant review panel as a way to give a little back. When Buettner is not working as the director of pharmacy at the ProMedica Defiance Regional Hospital, she works with Rotary International Youth Exchange students. She also teaches 5th-6th graders at church on Wednesday evenings during the school year. 

Buettner enjoys traveling throughout the U.S., as well as traveling internationally, reading, and watching TinCaps baseball games with her family. One of the few flowers she can keep alive and thriving are peonies.

Fuerst, who retired from education in 2016, was an administrator/teacher for 40 years. The majority of those years in education was spent in the Delphos City School District as teacher, principal, and coach. Fuerst and his wife, Diane, have five children and 11 grandchildren. He also said he enjoyed the time spent judging the contestants for the annual Peony Pageant.

The Peony Festival Committee and Pageant Committee invite everyone to visit the Peony Festival website at and/or its Facebook page at Peony Festival (Van Wert, Ohio) to view all the contestants’ talent selection submissions and the question-and-answer video. Check back next week for further coverage on crowning and announcements of Queen Jubilee XLV.

POSTED: 05/19/20 at 10:52 pm. FILED UNDER: News